Just like last season, Mark McGwire closed with a handful of home runs.
McGwire hit his 65th homer and Sammy Sosa hit his 63rd Sunday as the St. Louis Cardinals closed out an otherwise dismal year with a 9-5 victory over the Chicago Cubs in a game called after 4 1/2 innings because of rain.
McGwire homered six times in the final seven games, and moved past Ted Williams and Willie McCovey into 10th place on the career list with 522. Last year, he homered five times in the final three games to pull away from Sosa, 70-66.
"I'm pretty proud of myself as far as how I overcame a lot of things and to put up the numbers I put up this year," McGwire said. "It just goes to show you the mind is a lot stronger than people think."
McGwire said the same thing about Sosa, whose team finished 30 games back in the NL Central.
"He had an absolutely wonderful year," McGwire said. "I think both of our years were obviously very difficult because of what happened with both teams not doing so well."
McGwire became the first NL player since Dale Murphy in 1984-85 to win successive home run titles. This was his fourth crown overall, having won two AL titles with Oakland.
Sosa emerged from a long silence to hit No. 63, a three-run shot in the third off Larry Luebbers. Sosa led the home run derby 59-54 on Sept. 9, but finished with only two in the last 11 games and his final homer was his first in 18 at-bats.
"I am a happy man, not disappointed," Soa said. "I had a great year. For me, that's something to be happy about."
Sosa was already looking forward to another duel. The Cardinals open against the Cubs April 3 at Busch Stadium, although the Cubs start with two games against the Mets in Japan first.
"I'm going to go home and relax and work hard to get ready to come back for the year 2000," Sosa said. "I hope that next year we can both have another great year."
Sosa did tie for the major league strikeout lead, however, at 171 with Cleveland's Jim Thome.
There were two rain delays, costing each player perhaps two more at-bats. The first delay, which came with Sosa at the plate and the bases loaded in the fifth, lasted only 16 minutes. The second delay lasted one hour and 24 minutes.
McGwire connected in the first inning on a 2-2 fastball from Steve Trachsel (8-18), who allowed McGwire's record-setting 62nd home run last year.
The drive, estimated at 461 feet, was McGwire's fourth straight homer to straightaway center, and a kid wearing a McGwire jersey wound up with the ball following a scramble.
"I couldn't care less about Sosa and McGwire," Trachsel said.
McGwire also homered in the first inning Saturday and outhomered Sosa 2-1 in the final series although he also walked five times twice on Sunday. He also led the league with 147 RBIs, matching his career high he set last year, and became the first player in history to finish with more RBIs than hits (145) in a season.
The closest before this year was Jay Buhner of Seattle, who had 121 RBIs and 126 hits in 1995. McGwire had been second-closest with 147 RBIs and 152 hits last year.
Trachsel, who had been 4-1 in September and was coming off a complete game, lasted only 3 1-3 innings. He gave up eight runs, six earned, on eight hits.
Luebbers (3-3) gave up five runs on six hits in four innings, and Rick Ankiel worked the fifth for his first career save.
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